The stairs in the second floor hallway led to a small landing which gave access to a door. The door opened but only with some amount of pushing and squealing from the hinges. He stepped inside. He hadn’t been in the attic of his father’s house in years.
Inside was a hodgepodge of detritus which should have been thrown away years ago.
The window in the attic allowed a stream of soft late afternoon November sunlight to slice into the room. Dust was everywhere and the dust motes drifted lazily through the beam of sunlight. There was a confusion of boxes and books and “stuff” his father and mother had placed here.
He wanted to throw everything away, but he knew he would look at all the junk first. He was looking for one thing in particular...
There it was - the locker. It had been locked as far back as he could remember, but now he had the key. After his father’s death, the attorney had given him an envelope with a note in it and a key. “Open the trunk” the note said.
The lock did not yield at first, but with a little effort, it clicked open. “What’s in here?” he said. He slowly opened the lid to the old trunk.
Inside, he found an old WWII uniform, paratrooper’s wings, a document stating his father’s service record, a few pictures with army officers and smiling young men, a bronze star with its citation - the words on it said something about “valor” and “great personal risk.” There was also a purple heart. He knew his father was a vet, but he knew none of this.
Underneath the uniform was a writing pad of yellow paper. It was written by his father.
“The attorney has given you the key. There are a couple of blanks in what you know about my life, and I would like to fill those in.
I once lived a life which I came to regret. I was part of an auto theft ring. I was a car thief - and a skilled one, too. And I made a lot of money doing it. I took other people’s autos and delivered them to shops where they were quickly dismantled and sold for parts on the black market. I never got caught. That doesn’t diminish the fact that it was wrong. I was careful not to make friends or enemies within the social network of the thieves, so almost none of them knew anything about me. No one “ratted” on me, and I didn’t know enough to turn anyone else in. Had I continued on that career, no doubt I would have wound up in prison for a long time, as did others. At just the right time, I enlisted in the army. The country was at war, and after basic training, I was sent to Europe. I was glad to get away.
I came back and the town people treated me as a hero. The police buried my file, and I never went back to the old life. I found a college, and used the GI Bill which paid a lot of the expenses of college. I took my degree, and began a career in teaching. I met and married your mother, she brought me to the Lord, and the old life was far behind.
You knew none of this. If you want to bury it, that’s OK. If you want to publish it in the papers, that’s OK, too.”
He didn’t know what he would do, but at that moment, he thought he would probably bury it. He put the yellow pad back, and locked the trunk. He would start cleaning the attic tomorrow.
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